SUNRISE, FL The problems facing the Bruins are clear.
The fatigue factor they're going through right now is real and obvious. There's a hangover-like cloud lingering over many of last springs warriors who are either injured, run-down or a little bit of both.
They've gone 12-15-2 over the last 29 games, they've had four of the worst first periods in their tenure under Claude Julien over the last six games, and they're rolling out the worst goaltending in the league in the month of March -- a 3.75 goals against average and an .851 save percentage in eight games.
But theres also something else pulling the Bruins. There are too many Bruins players doing their own thing on the ice, straying from Juliens system and perhaps not taking their recent plight seriously enough. There are Bs players on their own programs that need to jump back into the fold with the rest of the group, and come together as they did last season when it mattered most in the playoffs.
There are way too many breakdowns on the ice and those breakdowns are becoming too costly, said Julien. The key to our game is defensively when we have layers -- and layers after those layers.
Whenever theres a breakdown it doesnt end up in our night and right now those layers arent there right now. Theres also bad, aggressive decisions being made with pinches and no players. That causes us to play from behind and that causes guys to get out of the game plan. It really snowballs from there.
The Bruins won the Stanley Cup last season because they were 20 united, energized players all pushing, pulling and punching toward the same goal.
Right now it just doesnt appear that every player is on the same page.
Tyler Seguin has been avoiding battles on the ice again like he did at times last year as a timid rookie, and is a minus-2 in eight games during the month of March after leading the NHL in that category for most of the year.
Brad Marchand has two measly points in eight games during the month of March and hasnt been the rabble-rousing emotional catalyst hes supposed to be when hes playing his role as resident agitator.
Benoit Pouliot pulled out of last weekends tilt against the Washington Capitals after warm-ups and hasnt been reliable when injuries started piling up for the Bruins.
There are troubling signs -- particularly from some of the youngest Bruins -- and that has manifested into some very un-Bruins-like games very recently.
Were not a player that relies on one or two guys to bail us out. Weve always been a group that does it by committee, said Julien. We realize that what we have here and what were all about is that our strength has been as a pack. Its not as individuals. We need to play within our strength. Its not about one guy as much as its about all of us picking up our game and putting it in the right direction.
Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference made light of something Bruins trainer John Whitesides is fond of saying to the players. It offered a pretty revealing take of whats going on with the Bruins right now.
Staying together is not just important: its essential. Its the only way to have any success whatsoever, said a laughing Andrew Ference, who was saying it in jest but was making a salient point. Our trainer tells our young guys especially Marchand or somebody like that to run with the pack of gazelles. If youre the gazelle that runs away from the pack then youre the one thats going to get eaten. Especially Marchand . . . I think he needs to remember that.
Its a matter of having urgency while blocking out frustration. I think frustration has gotten the better of us lately. Some of the starts and the minutes afterward there can be a better effort to suppress that frustration from affecting our game.
So it will be pretty simple to see if the Bruins are on the right track tonight: Marchand and Seguin will be fully invested, the Bruins will return to their defensive focus, and the Bs will start to show a little more resolve and a little less weakness when things aren't going their way.
It might not happen overnight, but it needs to come quickly for a Black and Gold bunch that now only stand a single point ahead of the Ottawa Senators in the Northeast Division standings.